NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month (we call it NaNo, yes us participants had to shorten it more -- time is words). It's a competition every November where you must write 50, 000 words in 30 days.
Now that's out of the way, here are my thoughts on this annual writing marathon that I have been competing in since 2010 (and won 3/3 years -- hoping for 4/4):
NaNo is an interesting event. You don't really win much (you get a certificate, a few web badges, and a proof copy or two of your "novel" from Create Space) but that's not the point. Most everyone at some time in their lives has had a great idea that they think would make for a great story. NaNo gives you the chance to just get that idea out as if you were ripping off a band-aid -- fast and furious.
I will grant right out of the box that what you get after November is not really publishing-ready...at all. It's probably full of spelling errors, bad punctuation, and maybe a plot hole or two. But the important thing is that it's THERE, it EXISTS. It's not lost somewhere in your brain where you often lose so much. It's in the world, and it's editable. That's the whole purpose of NaNo, to get that idea out, just get it out and worry about the details afterward.
That is what I love about NaNo. I will say, though, I don't think I'm a novelist. One thing NaNo has taught me is I am more of a short story author. However, I still enjoy the long haul and maybe I could pull some great scenes out and make them into a nice short story.
NaNo is also an idea generator. Ask any group of participants and you're bound to find quite a few that have no real plot, that are just writing along and seeing where their mind takes them. I usually have a basic idea for what I'd normally write into a short story and I just stretch it for all it's worth. Later, I can take the main elements and I have a nice little story...but the stuff in between is useful too. I've gotten many more story ideas simply from writing a NaNo novel. Little snippets of clever dialog, or maybe a scene that comes up sparks an idea.
It all boils down to a few things for me as to why I do NaNo:
1. The writing: Sometimes I get lazy with my writing so there's nothing like a 50,000 word sprint to get me back in the mood.
2. The community: You'll find a wonderful community of writers at coffee shops and restaurants all November long. It's great to get together with fellow writers and work together. The motivation from a dozen people pounding out stories on their laptops is indescribable!
3. The ideas: Like I said, NaNo gets me in the writing mood where ideas come out.
4. The challenge: Anyone could, in theory, copy and paste any 50,000 words in the submission box on the NaNo site and be declared a "winner." However, knowing you actually wrote that is the real reward. Those certificates really mean something when you know what you did to get them. I love challenges and I've been a writer my whole life so NaNo was a given for me to do.
Many Wrimos (that's what you call participants...at least that's what we call ourselves) have gotten published. You do get to self-publish through Create Space as they are a sponsor of the event. You get a few proof copies of your book for yourself or to just give/sell to people. Others can buy your book on Amazon and it's made to order. That's intriguing too. I have self-published before through Barnes and Noble (check my Bookstore) but it has just been my short stories. One day I may try and publish "the novel."
But, every word does count and all of these could have been toward my NaNo novel so consider yourselves lucky I wrote this for you in November (just kidding). But I hope you maybe will check out NaNoWriMo and give novelling a shot -- get that story out of you, you know it's there. If nothing else, it clears up some brain space for more song lyrics and random facts!
...oh and as for Ninja Plot Kittens, think of them as little muses for the Milwaukee region of NaNoWriMo. Little story ideas that all other NaNo regions call Plot Bunnies...but Milwaukee is more awesome than that!